Read an Excerpt
It's all about drinking strange wine.
It seems disjointed and jumps around like water on a griddle, but it all comes together, so be patient.
At 9:38 A.M. on July 15th, 1974, about eight minutes into Suncoast Digest, a variety show on WXLT-TV in Sarasota, Florida, anchorwoman Chris Chubbuck, 30, looked straight at the camera and said, "In keeping with Channel 40's policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts in living color, you're going to see another first-an attempt at suicide."
Whereupon she pulled a gun out of a shopping bag and blew her brains out, on camera.
Paragraph 3, preceding, was taken verbatim from an article written by Daniel Schorr for Rolling Stone. I'd heard about the Chubbuck incident, of course, and I admit to filching Mr. Schorr's sixty concise words because they are concise, and why should I try to improve on precision? As the artist Mark Rothko once put it: "Silence is so accurate."
Further, Mr. Schorr perceived in the bizarre death of Chris Chubbuck exactly what I got out of it when I heard the news broadcast the day it happened. She was making a statement about television ... on television!
The art-imitating-life resemblance to Paddy Chayefsky's film Network should not escape us. I'm sure it wouldn't have escaped Chris Chubbuck's attention. Obvious cliché; onward.
I used to know Dan Blocker, who played Hoss Cartwright on Bonanza. He was a wise and a kind man, and there are tens of dozens of people I would much rather see dead than Dan. Onetime, around lunch-break at Paramount, when I was goofing off on writing a treatment for a Joe Levine film that never got made, and Dan was resting his ass from some dumb horsey number he'd been reshooting all morning, we sat on the steps of the weathered saloon that probably in no way resembled any saloon that had ever existed in Virginia City, Nevada, and we talked about reality versus fantasy. The reality of getting up at five in the morning to get to the studio in time for makeup call and the reality of how bloody much FICA tax they took out of our paychecks and the reality of one of his kids being down with something or other ... and the fantasy of not being Dan Blocker, but of being Hoss Cartwright.
And he told me a scary story. He laughed about it, but it was the laugh of butchers in a slaughterhouse who have to swing the mauls that brain the beeves; who then go home to wash the stink out of their hair from the spattering.